Details in Genesis 3 that get lost in Translation

There are some things that just do not translate well into modern English, and may lead to a misunderstanding of the text. Here are a few observations from the Hebrew text.

 

  1. The conversation in verses 3:1-8a is almost entirely plural i.e. We, y’all, us, etc.. When the serpent speaks, he doesn’t speak to Eve exclusively he speaks to both Adam and Eve (‘you’ plural). Interestingly, depictions of the temptation in art always included Adam and Eve until English began to lose the 2nd person plural; then pictures depicting only Eve and the serpent began to appear, corresponding with the change in our language that makes it difficult to distinguish between the 2nd person plural and the 2nd person singular. However, there are still strong clues in our modern English texts that Adam was there i.e. Eve uses “We,” she gives the fruit to her husband “who was with her,” etc… While the plurals are less clear, they are not entirely absent.
  1. In the section beginning in Ge. 2:4 and ending in 3:24, God is addresses almost exclusively as YHWH Elohim (Lord God); YHWH is the name of our Lord. There are only two exceptions in this section of Scripture; when the Serpent speaks, he uses only “Elohim (God).” This is also seen in Job where the narrator uses YHWH, but Satan uses Elohim (God). The impression in the text of Genesis 3 is that the serpent refuses to use God’s name.
  1. In verse 8, the last plural is used when “They hear God,” the text then switches rather dramatically to the singular, “and that man hid HIMSELF and his wife from the presence of the Lord God among the trees in the garden.” We get the sense that when they heard God, Adam recognized the sin and then took action (unfortunately English translations keep this in the plural). Maybe this is a hint to why Paul made the declaration he did 1 Ti. 2:14. Note, the conversation that then ensues between God and Adam, unlike the earlier conversation with the serpent and Eve, is entirely in the singular voice.
  1. When God addressed Adam in vs. 3:11, he specifically addresses the command Adam violated i.e. “Did you eat from the tree from which I commanded you to not eat?” This is significantly different than his address to Eve in vs. 13 where God simply asks “what did you do?” and God never asks the serpent for any explanation at all.
  1. Adam’s response in Ge. 3:12 emphasizes his blame of God. In the phrase “The woman who you gave me,” the verb “You gave” is emphatic. In Hebrew “נָתַ֣תָּ עִמָּדִ֔י” is “You gave me,” but when the suffixed ה is added i.e. “נָתַ֣תָּה עִמָּדִ֔י”, it become “You gave me!” Adam’s blame of God comes across much stronger in the Hebrew text.
  1. Many have accused Eve of blame shifting, like Adam, when she responded to God’s question saying, “The serpent deceived me and I ate.” However, Eve may be getting a bad rap here; her statement reads far more like a statement of fact than it does an attempt to shift the blame. This may be another hint an explanation for Paul’s declaration in 1 Ti. 2:14. Similarly, God’s response to Eve is far gentler than his response to Adam i.e. simply stating “because you did this…” Below is a pretty graphic picture of the differences in Adam’s blame shifting speech and Eve’s response i.e. When there are many words, sin is unavoidable, but the one who controls his lips is wise. (Prov. 10:19)”

 

Adam said:  הָֽאִשָּׁה֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר נָתַ֣תָּה עִמָּדִ֔י הִ֛וא נָֽתְנָה־לִּ֥י מִן־הָעֵ֖ץ וָאֹכֵֽל

Eve said: הַנָּחָ֥שׁ הִשִּׁיאַ֖נִי וָאֹכֵֽל

 

Book Review: Where is that in the Bible?

Where_is_that_MadridPatrick’s goal is to provide Catholics with Scriptural evidence for the distinctively Catholic doctrines they hold. Given Patrick’s impressive resume, I expected to find well-reasoned arguments presented in his book “Where is that in the bible?”; however, that was not the case. Patrick begins his book by telling us an anecdotal story about a theological discussion he had with a couple of his protestant friends that forms the foundation for many of the arguments he later presents. He tells us that, as he discussed questions of biblical interpretation with his friends, he convinced them that many different interpretations were equally valid. Armed with this new understanding his friends soon abandoned their protestant faith and joined the Catholic church. The following is an excerpt from the story he tells:

 

“How can you be so sure that your particular interpretation of Scripture is accurate?” This question hung silently in the air between us for a moment.

Steve said, “Scripture is clear. We don’t have to worry that we don’t understand it. Its meaning is clear.”

“Is it? Are you certain you have the right interpretation?” I asked, eyebrows arched.

They nodded vigorously. So I used this exercise to show them why I as a Catholic look not just to Scripture alone, as they did, but also to the Church and its living Tradition of interpreting Scripture.

Let’s say someone wrote these words a hundred years ago: “I never said you stole money.” As Steve and Mike did, anyone you asked would say he understands the meaning of that sentence. Six short words, nothing complicated. But do you understand the meaning for sure? Perhaps the person who wrote it meant to say: “I never said you stole money.” Implying that someone else said it. Or maybe he meant: “I never said you stole money.” He thought it, he suspected it, but he never said it. Or, “I never said you stole money.” He said your neighbor did. Or, “I never said you stole money.” He meant that you lost the money, or you squandered it, or did something thing else with it he didn’t approve of- but you didn’t steal it.”

While Patrick’s story makes a good sound bite, it fails the most basic rule of hermeneutics i.e. a text must be understood within the context of the passage from which it was taken. Without context most small phrases can be understood in a wide variety of ways. In his example, he has simple demonstrated that taking words out of context can result in a gross misunderstanding of its intended meaning and this is something every scholar already acknowledges. The goal of good hermeneutics is to understand the intent of the author and that often requires hard work. It isn’t simply looking at a text and deciding the meaning you like best (eisegesis), it is digging in and searching for evidence that demonstrates what the author himself intended to say (exegesis). As an example, let’s see what happens when I take the words from the example that Patrick provided, i.e. “I never said you stole money,” and place them within a larger context.          

 

“John allowed his friend Tom, who had been released from prison, to stay with him in his home as Tom began to rebuild his life. One day John came home, and upon seeing that money he had left on the dining room table was gone, he asked his friend about the missing money. In fear, Tom responded, saying “I didn’t steal it!” His friend replied, “My dear friend, I never said you stole money, I just wanted to know what had happened to it.”

 

Within the context of this passage, the phrase we just read becomes far less ambiguous because the context provides boundaries that limit the possible meanings from which we may choose. And even in this light, there is still much more context that we do not know;  context encompasses much more than just the words on the page from which a phrase was taken, and the better we understand the whole context, the more clarity we will have in our understanding of what the author intended to say. The more we learn about the author, his intended audience, their culture, and the circumstances that prompted his words, the easier it becomes to understand his words as he intended them to be understood. While our understanding of the context is often incomplete, and this sometimes prevent us from identifying a single possible meaning, a good understanding of the context, even when incomplete, will always eliminate many wrong interpretations. Understanding any text, including the Bible, is not the free for all suggested by Patrick; there really are good tools we can use to provide boundaries that differentiate between valid interpretations and invalid ones, but it sometimes requires us to put in a little effort.

Let’s now take a look at some of the arguments that Patrick presents in his book. The first argument we will examine is his claim that Hebrew and Aramaic lack the vocabulary used to describe close relatives like “uncles” and “cousins.” Here is what he says:

“In Hebrew and Aramaic languages, as they were spoken at the time of Christ, there was no word for cousin or uncle or some other close relative. All close relatives were referred to simply as “brother” or “sister.” And though in Greek there are specific words for these relationships, it is quite reasonable to assume that the Greek word for brother (adelplios) was employed even in instances where it would be more precise to call someone a cousin or a nephew. This was because it reflected the culture’s use of the word brother in a wider sense.”

 

In reality, Hebrew does have a word for “uncle” and Aramaic has two. Additionally, both Hebrew and Aramaic describe a “cousin” as a “son of an uncle.” Here are some references from early Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic texts that demonstrate that these familial relationships could be described by words other than “brother” in all three languages.

 

‎  או־דדו או בן־דדו (Lev. 25:49 Hebrew)

His uncle or the son of his uncle (i.e. cousin) [English Translation]

‎  או אחבוהי או בר אחבוהי (Lev. 25:49 Aramaic Targums OT “commentary”)

His uncle or the son of his uncle (i.e. cousin) [English Translation].

‎  או דדה או בר דדה (Lev. 25:49 Syriac [Aramaic OT])

His uncle or the son of his uncle (i.e. cousin) [English Translation]

‎  ומרקוס בר דדה דברנבא (Col. 4:10 Peshitta [Aramaic NT])

And Mark is the son of Barnabas’ uncle (i.e. cousin) [English Translation]

 

Note also that the Greek also makes these relationships clear.

 

ἀδελφὸς πατρὸς αὐτοῦ ἢ υἱὸς ἀδελφοῦ πατρὸς  (Lev. 25:49 LXX)

his father’s brother (i.e. uncle) and the son of his father’s brother (i.e. cousin) [English Translation]

Μᾶρκος ὁ ἀνεψιὸς Βαρναβᾶ (Col. 4:10 GNT)

Mark, the cousin of Barnabas  [English Translation]

 

Contrary to the claim Patrick has made, if they wanted to speak of a relationship other than “brother,” the had the words to describe those relationships in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, and they used them in other places in Scripture.

 

Patrick also makes the claim that if Scripture had intended to communicate that Jesus had siblings, the author would not have used the definite article “the,” suggesting that the use of the definite article proves that Jesus was an only child. Here is what he says:

 

“Scripture only refers to Christ as “the” son of Mary, but never as “a” son of Mary, which we would expect if there were other “sons” of Mary.”

 

Neither in Greek, nor in English, is there any expectation that using the definite article when speaking of a child precludes the possibility that other children existed, and examples we find in Scripture strongly contradict this proposal. For example, we recognize that the Apostle Peter’s brother was Andrew (Matt. 10:2) and yet Jesus says to Peter “You are Simon the son of John. (Jn. 1:42)” Jesus’ use of the definite article doesn’t leave us wondering whether Peter was an only child because we recognize that language doesn’t work that way. Furthermore, Patrick’s argument becomes especially weak when we realize that that there is only one reference to “son of Mary” found in Scripture (Mk. 6:3). In this light, Patrick’s argument is completely meaningless.

 

The vast majority of the “proofs” presented in Patrick’s book, mirror the two I have presented above. Many of his arguments crumble because they begin with a faulty foundation (as in the examples above). This is a book that will “speak to the choir” as they say, but it is uncompelling for anyone willing to examine his arguments with more than just a cursory glance.

 

 

 

BEWARE OF MEDIA BIAS

outofblanceTwenty-five years ago, I got my first real education into the way that media bias can drastically transform a story. Being an eye witness to what took place and then seeing how those same events were portrayed in our evening news helped me to recognize that a story can be distorted just as easily through creative editing as it can by an outright lie. Tragically, objective and impartial news has become something that is almost extinct. Too often, news reporters today (right or left) are more interested in proving their narrative of the world than they are in objectively and unbiased reporting the news and we, who are the consumers of the news they report, need to compensate for this shortcoming. Impartiality is always difficult, but it is something we must strive for if we care about the truth at all. And when those who report the news no longer willing to strive for impartiality, then we need to work even harder to overcome their failings or we will end up being taken in by their lies.

 

How my education began

Our local school board had introduced material into the Jr. and HS curriculum that contained significant portions of text that were nothing short of pornographic. This curriculum was introduced under the guise of “multiculturalism” and our community was outraged when content of that material was revealed. At the school board meeting following that revelation, the room was overflowing with angry parents. During the portion of the meeting reserved for public comment, the normal rule of alternating speakers on each side of the issue had to be changed because those desiring to speak in opposition to the schools board’s decision so vastly outnumbered those who were supporting it. After a tally of all speakers was made, it was decided that for each person speaking in support of the school boards decision, five people would be permitted to speak against it. About half way through the public address, the principle from one of the schools spoke in support, her speech began as follows “You, board, should be ashamed of yourselves because you have already allowed parents to have far more input into the curriculum of our schools than is proper! These are not professional educators and they should not be influencing……” This is about as far as she got before the room full of angry parents erupted. It took several minutes for order to be restored, and one man, who would not calm down, was escorted from the meeting by the police.

 

What was presented on all of our local news channels that night

The news that evening showed excerpts from five speakers during the public address section. They chose excerpts from four speakers who had supported the school boards decision, and they chose the most well articulated portions of their speeches, even though these four speakers represented only a tiny fraction of the total number of speakers, and they choose one of the least educated and least articulate speakers to represent the views of the vast majority who had attended. Then they showed video of the irritate man being led away by the police, but did not air the portion of the school principle’s speech that led to the rooms eruption or make mention of the reaction of the rest of the room to her comments. Those who watched the news that night were left with the impression that almost everyone in attendance, with the exception of a few uneducated angry parents, supported the schools decision.

 

What I learned that night

  1. It is important to consider both what has been reported and what may have been left out.
  2. It is important to look for other sources to collaborate what is being said. For example, a review of the published school board minutes would have revealed a perspective that was contrary to the reports on the news that night.
  3. It is important to consider the biases of those who are reporting the news, and what story we believe that they would like to tell.

When we watch the news, we need to recognize that far too often the story we hear is the one the reporter wants to tell, even when it is very different from the actual events that took place. We need to do our do diligence and look for reliable source to collaborate the story we have been told. And we need to be even more careful to verify sources that appear to support our own perspectives, knowing that it far easier to blindly accept information that seems to support our perceptions.

Stand United

UnitedI think that Jason Foster has a lot of good things to say and his articles are often thought provoking, but in his article, Why ‘God And Country’ Christianity Is Just Another Phony Prosperity Gospel, he really took a wrong turn. The “false gospel” he confronts in this article (while it is truly a false gospel), is not something that is taught in our churches. This false gospel is the invention of Emergent church leaders like Bell, McClaren, Evens, etc… who needed something to rebel against and, sadly, too often we have uncritically given legitimacy to their false narrative and then beaten ourselves up over it.

That isn’t to say that there isn’t some merit to the issues he raises; there is, and Jason has almost hit the nail on the head as he tries to identify them. But, as he rightly pointed out in another article, “in a spiritual context, being almost right is often the same as being all the way wrong.While I share many of the concerns Jason raises in this article, issues that should deeply concern all of us, and I too have been appalled by some of the rhetoric voiced by a number of our prominent evangelical leaders during this political season, I believe that mis-characterizing their beliefs and exaggerating their errors does not help to bring correction, but only deepens our division.

I, like I believe Jason also does, truly hope that we, as the body of Christ, will take a hard and critical look at the mistakes we have made and be unafraid to loudly voice those concerns to our brothers and sisters in Christ, but let’s stop using the false narrative of those who truly hate the church to beat one another up.

Renewed in his love!

Renewed in his Love

See if you can spot the difference in these two Hebrew phrases above.

Sunday morning we were reading Zephaniah 3:17, “The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing. (ESV)”. The text of Zeph. 3:14-20 (especially in Hebrew) is the language of a loud and jubilant celebration. In this context, the phrase “he will quiet [you] by his love” in the middle of 3:17 seems startlingly out of place. When I looked at the Greek text to see if there might be any insights about why read as it did, I found that it read very differently i.e. it reads “He will renew you in his love[i].” In Hebrew the difference between these variants is a only single letter, and the two different letters that account for these variant readings are so similar that they are frequently misread. Adding more weight to the possibility that the Hebrew text may have long ago been mis-transcribed, the Syriac text also follows the Greek text[ii], providing a second ancient witness for this variant reading i.e. “He will renew you in his love[ii].”

שיר המעלות לדויד-ב

This text above comes from Ps. 133 in the Dead Sea Scrolls. The text below is a transcription into modern Hebrew letters. Look at how similar the ר and ד are in this ancient text.

While most English translations follow the Hebrew text, several have felt that this variant is significant enough to mention in the foot notes, and the NET has opted to follow the Greek/Syriac texts, noting that “the MT (Hebrew text) reads, ‘he is silent in his love,’ but this makes no sense in light of the immediately preceding and following lines[iii].” The NET footnote mirrors my on thoughts as I read this passage i.e. “this makes no sense!” Given the textual evidence, and the context of this passage, I think it is very likely that the Greek text (a text used by the Apostles) has captured an original text that has since been lost in Hebrew.

God is celebrating because his people have been renewed in his love!

What an awe inspiring thought!


 

[i] LXX “καὶ καινιεῖ σε ἐν τῇ ἀγαπήσει αὐτου”

[ii] Syriac “ונחדתכי בחובה”

[iii] The MT reads, “he is silent in his love,” but this makes no sense in light of the immediately preceding and following lines. Some take the Hiphil verb form as causative (see Job 11:3) rather than intransitive and translate, “he causes [you] to be silent by his love,” that is, “he soothes [you] by his love.” The present translation follows the LXX and assumes an original reading ) יְחַדֵּשׁ ykhaddesh, “he renews”) with ellipsis of the object (“you”). (NET NOTES on Zeph. 3:17)

 

Racism: What is it?

Racism Definition3

It is become quite popular, especially in our media and our universities, to suggest that only those who are “white” can be racist. Frequently new definitions of “racism,” not found in any of our dictionaries, are offered in support of this claim. Armed with these new definitions CNN political commentator Marc Lamont Hill states that black people don’t have the institutional power to be racistand Huffington Post reporter Zeba Blay tells us that Reverse racism isn’t real.” The core of their argument is that “racism” cannot be committed by those who do not have the political power to institutionalize it. And while It is true that the potential for harm caused by racism is greater when those controlling political power are able to institutionalize racist polices, racism isn’t defined by the amount of institutional power that a person or group controls; racism is simply prejudice against another person because of their race. And that kind of prejudice frequently harms those who are targeted by that prejudice, even when it is not institutionalized. Racism is always wrong whether it is being perpetrated by Klu Klux Klan against black people or by Louis Farrakhan against white people. If we truly want to end of racism in America then all of us, regardless of the color of our skin, need to stand united against all forms of racism, recognizing that it is ALWAYS WRONG! In his march on Washington speech, Martin Luther King said, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” This is a dream worth fighting for, and it is time for us as a nation to again strive towards that dream and to stand united against anyone who, black or white, dares to stand in the way of achieving it.

 

Why does ISIS want to kill us?

ISIS killingOur media and our politicians are continually telling us what ISIS is and what its connection to Islam is or is not and, regardless of which side of the political aisle they are on, they almost always get it wrong. If you truly want to understand what ISIS is, and why so many “moderate” Muslims are attracted to it, then stop listening to those who don’t know (often because they do not want to know), and start listening to those who have committed themselves to the ideology of ISIS. The following is the conclusion from an article entitled “Why we hate you & Why we fight you” in DABIQ[i] (an ISIS propaganda Magazine). It offers real peek into the motivation of those who have embraced ISIS, and why it is so attractive to so many Muslims. Here is the explanation from ISIS about why they want to kill us.

“What’s important to understand here is that, although some might argue that your foreign policies are the extent of what drives our hatred, this particular reason for hating you is secondary, hence the reason we addressed it at the end of the above list. The fact is, even if you were to stop bombing us, imprisoning us, torturing us, vilifying us, and usurping our lands, we would continue to hate you because our primary reason for hating you will not cease to exist until you embrace Islam. Even if you were to pay jizyah[ii] and live under the authority of Islam in humiliation, we would continue to hate you. No doubt, we would stop fighting you then, as we would stop fighting any disbeliever who enters into a covenant with us, but we would not stop hating you.

What’s equally, if not more important, to understand is that we fight you, not simply to punish and deter you, but to bring you true freedom in this life and salvation in the Hereafter, freedom from being enslaved to your whims and desires as well as those of your clergy, legislatures, and salvation by worshiping your Creator alone and following his messenger. We fight you in order to bring you out from the darkness of disbelief and into the light of Islam, and to liberate you from the constraints of living for the sake of the worldly life alone so that you may enjoy both the blessings of the worldly life and the bliss of the Hereafter.

The gist of the matter is that there is indeed a rhyme to our terrorism, warfare, ruthlessness and brutality. As much as some liberal journalist would like you to believe that we do what we do because we’re simply monsters with no logic behind our course of action, the fact is that we continue to wage — and escalate — a calculated war that the West thought it had ended several years ago. We continue dragging you further and further into a swamp you thought you’d already escaped only to realize that you’re stuck even deeper within its murky waters… And we do so while offering you a way out on our terms. So you can continue to believe that those “despicable terrorists” hate you because of your lattes and your Timberlands, and continue spending ridiculous amounts of money to prevail in an unwinnable war, or you can accept reality and recognize that we will never stop hating you until you embrace Islam, and we will never stop fighting you until you’re ready to leave the swamp of warfare and terrorism through the exits we provide, the very exits put forth by our Lord for the People of the Scriptures: Islam, jizyah, or — as a last means of fleeting respite — a temporary truce.”

While this article declares over and over the “hate” that ISIS has for us, it is not the kind of “hate” that most of us understand. In the very same breath, the article tells us that their “hatred” is motivated out of a desire for our spiritual well-being, for our eternal redemption, to bring us out of darkness and into the light, and to liberate us so that we can enjoy the blessings of life. In order to understand ISIS, one must understand their embrace of these very contradictory ideas, only then will we begin to understand why ISIS is so attractive to so many.

Taking the time to understand ISIS helps us to see those who have embraced its ideology through God’s eyes. People are attracted to ISIS, not because they are “bad people,” but because they have been deceived by bad theology, and bad theology is deadly! Scripture tells us that “Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. (2 Cor. 11:14)” and this truth is clearly evident when we read the words of ISIS. And while the theology of ISIS is frightening, we must remember that those who have been deceived by it are people whom God dearly loves and with whom he calls us to share the Good News of the Gospel; they are our neighbors and Scripture tells us to “Love your neighbor as yourself. (Matt. 22:39) and to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you (Matt. 5:44).” As we seek to understand ISIS, let us not forget how God has called us to respond to those who are trapped in it.

 


[i] DABIQ, Issue 15

[ii] Jizyah is a tax paid by non-muslims living in a state under Islamic rule.

 

Please don’t create unnecessary division among believers over God’s creation!

A response to AiG’s article “Are There Gaps in the Genesis Genealogies?

ArgueThere is a huge cultural chasm between our culture and the cultures of the Old Testament and that chasm is often presents obstacles as we seek to understand the text of Scripture.  Translators of the OT face these obstacles in most passages of the OT as they try to communicate its words into English. To overcome these obstacle, translators look at ancient translations of the text, read ancient commentaries about the text, look at archeological evidence, look at variant texts, etc… to better understand the text they are trying to translate. And sometimes they are still left choosing between several possible alternatives. And even when meaning of a text is easily understood, it is still never as precise as our English translations of the text would make it appear. Biblical Hebrew uses a much smaller vocabulary (about 8000[i] words) than does English (about 1,000,000[ii] words). Furthermore, Old Testament Hebrew is a language that is rich with synonyms which further reduces its effective word count. To compensate for the much smaller vocabulary, most words in Biblical Hebrew have much broader ranges of meaning than do their English equivalents. For example, the same word in Hebrew can be translated “to carry, to lift, to support, to forgive, to marry, etc…” Additionally, there are far fewer verb tenses in Biblical Hebrew and they are much more fluid than they are in English. One of the challenges of Biblical Hebrew is trying to understand which verb tense was intended in a given text. For example, most translations of Hosea 1:10b read “And in the place where it was said to them, “You are not my people,” it shall be said to them, “Children of the living God”.” Most people would be surprised to learn that the conjugated Hebrew verb for “it was said” and for “it shall be said” are identical in the Hebrew text. The change of tense was a choice made by the translator, and there is some debate about what tense was intended.[iii] The broad range of meaning of Hebrew words, and the fluid use of verb tenses are just a few of the challenges faced by biblical Hebrew scholars.

While Hebrew scholars often hold strong opinions about the intended meaning of the passages found in the Hebrew Scriptures, they also tend to approach scholarly debate with a lot of grace when challenging those who hold differing opinions because they also recognize how many questions are still unanswered. Understanding both the strengths and weaknesses of your own position is critical to honest debate. When looking at the Genesis account, these scholars recognize that many of the questions we have about how and when creation took place are simply not answered as neatly as we might desire and, while they often have strong opinions about how these passages should be understood, they recognize that there is room for an abundance of grace for those who have come to different conclusions. When Hebrew scholars, who have spent a lifetime studying the language of the OT, are unwilling to make the kind of dogmatic assertions that are being made by people who have not studied the language, it should be a red flag that something is wrong.

There are a many good questions that should be asked as we approach the biblical account of creation, and good arguments can be made for a number of answers to these questions. Unfortunately the goal of some “creation ministries” has not been to prove that their answers to these questions are the best answers, but rather to prove that they are the only answers. In pursuing this goal, these ministries have often presented extremely flawed arguments in an attempt to force the text of Scripture into their mold. The problem is not that their suggested interpretation of the biblical text is unreasonable; the problem is that far too much energy is being spent trying to prove that all other interpretations are unreasonable instead of honestly looking at the text itself and recognizing where there is room for honest disagreement. Sometimes these ministries have acted like an overzealous cop who so strongly believes his suspect is guilty that he is willing to cross ethical lines and manufacture evidence in order to gain a conviction of a man who may be innocent. When proving that all other explanations of the creation account are invalid becomes the goal, it can lead to an overzealous desire to convict those who interpret these passages differently of mishandling Scripture. Intentionally or not, their over zealousness has far too often been the catalyst for false accusations that have been leveled against brothers and sisters in Christ.

I would like to examine an article written by Answers in Genesis that demonstrates how easily ethical lines can be crossed when the goal becomes “proving” all other explanations are wrong. The primary question being raised in this article is “Are there gaps in the Genesis genealogies?” This is a good question and there are good biblical scholars who validly disagree on the answer to this question. Answers in Genesis takes the position that there are no gaps in the early genealogies of Genesis, and while their answer is an entirely reasonable explanation of the biblical text, it is not the only valid explanation of the text. Problems arise in their argument, not because of how they understand the text, but because they have over zealously tried to “prove” that all other explanations are invalid. The focus of AiG’s argument is based on how the Hebrew root ‘YaLaD’ (to begat) should be understood. Some Hebrew scholars do support AiG’s understanding of these early genealogies in Genesis, but none will support AiG’s suggestion about how the Hebrew root ‘YaLaD’ must be understood. While AiG’s proposal, if true, would preclude any other understanding of these genealogies, it is not a proposal supported by Hebrew scholarship and it marks the point where AiG has begun to cross an ethical line. In order to defend their position, AiG must move farther still beyond a line that they should have never crossed. Let’s take a look at AiG’s six arguments.

 

Arguments 1 and 3

The genealogical information given in Genesis 46 presents a serious problem for those who suggest that the Hebrew root ‘YaLaD’ (begat) can refer only to a direct descendant. In trying to defend this position, AiG tells us that “A person needs to read the quoted verse (Ge. 46:15) carefully to correctly understand its meaning. The begat (bare) refers to the sons born in Padanaram. Genesis 35:23 lists the six sons born in Padanaram (those whom Leah begat), who are listed as part of the total group of 33 children in Genesis 46:15. Thus, this passage confirms that begat points to the generation immediately following—a literal parent/child relationship.” There are several serious problems with this explanation.

First, no distinction is made between the six children that were direct descendants and the remaining twenty-seven given in the list. While the qualification “in Paddam-Aram” may indicate that, through the birth of these six children, ultimately Leah bore thirty three children, it is an inescapable conclusion that this usage of YaLaD (begat) refers to multiple generations. It is this kind of usage that many scholars believe may be intended in other early genealogies given in Genesis.

Second, this same pattern is repeated for Zipah (vs. 18), Rachel (vs. 22), and Bilah (vs. 25). In each of these for examples, a list of children and grandchildren is also provided, and then the total number is said to have been born to the woman whose name follows the list. However, in none of the remaining three examples is any qualifying location provided, further demonstrating the impossibility of the very imaginative interpretation suggested by AiG. AiG tells us that nowhere is it stated that these four wives physically bore the total number of sons listed for each” but the whole point is that scholars see these as examples where the text is speaking of generational gaps, where the text speaks of both children and grandchildren that are born to these women, and the text is very clear on that point. Genesis 46:18 states that “she [Zilpah] bore to Jacob these sixteen persons (NASB)[iv]” but only two were her biological children, the rest were grandchildren or great grandchildren.

Third, this is not the only passage that uses the root YaLad (begat) in a way that indicates multiple generations. Duet. 4:25 tells us that “you will beget sons and sons of sons,” and in Ruth 4:17 were are told that “A son has been born to Naomi.” This son, we know from the narrative, was the direct descendant of Ruth and Boaz. Not only is there a generational gap, there wasn’t even a direct biological relationship between Naomi and Ruth and only a distant relationship between Naomi and Boaz.

 

Argument 2

AiG’s recognizes that there are skipped generations found in Mt. 1:8 and Mt. 1:11, but AiG tells us that Here, the Greek word for begat is gennao, which shows flexibility not found in the Hebrew word and does allow for the possibility that a generation or more may be skipped. Where did the idea that the Hebrew word ‘YaLaD’ is less flexible than the Greek word ‘gennao’ originate? It appears that this idea came solely from AiG. This implied limit to the semantic range of meaning for ‘YaLaD’ is not supported by any Hebrew reference lexicon, and AiG has not referenced the work of any Hebrew scholar that would support such a conclusion.

The Greek NT has been translated into a number of Semitic languages, like Hebrew, Aramaic, Arabic. These languages share many common roots, and one frequently shared root is ‘YaLaD’ (to beget). When we examine translations of Mt. 1 in every Hebrew, Aramaic, and Arabic translation, we find that ‘YaLaD’ is consistently used to translate the verses with their known genealogical gaps. Some examples are Shem-Tob ben-Isaac ben-Shaprut’s 14th century Hebrew translation[v], the Peshitta (an Aramaic 5th century translation)[vi], and the Van Dyke[vii]. If, as AiG contends, the root ‘YaLaD’ (begat) can never be used to refer to anyone other than a direct biological descendant, then we would expect that the translators of these Hebrew, Aramaic, and Arabic translations of this biblical text would have recognized the problem and chosen other words to express the non-direct relationships found in this genealogy; they did not. The universal usage of this root in every Hebrew, Aramaic, and Arabic translation alone demonstrates the fallacy of this argument.

 

Argument 4

AiG tells us that “The Hebrew word yalad for begat is not used in the 1 Chronicles passage (1 Chronicles 7:23–27);” however, it is present[viii] in the very first verse of this passage.

Argument 5

In Luke 3:36, and in most copies of the LXX (ancient Greek translation of the Hebrew text) we have an additional generation that is not present in the Hebrew genealogies found in Ge. 11:12 or 1 Chr. 1:24. AiG contends that this was an error introduced into both the LXX and the text of Luke 3:36. They point to an early manuscript (P75) of Luke which does not contain the additional generation, and suggest that this was the original text and that all other copies reflect a corrupted text. While this, unlike the other arguments, is a possible explanation, it is far from certain.

Most scholars believe the genealogies that include Cainan reflect the original text of Luke and that the basis for Luke’s genealogy is found in the LXX. P75 was found in 1952, and many new English translations of Scripture have been published since its discovery i.e. the NIV, NASB, ESV, NRSV, NLT, HCSB, etc…; to date, no translation committee has felt there was sufficient evidence to warrant changing our English translations and every new English translation still includes the name Cainan. Before the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered, scholars often presumed that differences between the LXX and the Hebrew text reflected either corruption or mistranslation of an original Hebrew text; however, the DSS have demonstrated that many of these differences were actually a reflection of previously unknown Hebrew variants[ix]. For this reason, scholars today have much more respect for the translation quality of the LXX than did scholars of a generation past. Because this additional generation is found in so many ancient manuscripts[x], many scholars believe that copies of Luke that include Cainan are more likely to represent the original text.

Additionally, witnesses to this genealogy also exist in the Jewish Pseudepigrapha, and these witnesses add details that may provide grounds for understanding why Cainan was omitted from the Hebrew text. In the book of Jubilees[xi] we are told that Cainan the son of Arphaxad (and father of Shelah) found a cave with writings about astrology written by the “watchers who lived before the flood.” He copied the writing and then hid this from Noah because he was afraid of Noah’s response. This led to sin that apparently resulted Cainan being sent away. His involvement in astrology and subsequent expulsion may explain why his name was blotted out of the OT record. Additionally, mathematical analysis[xii] of both the Hebrew and Greek genealogies of the OT demonstrate that it is extremely unlikely that this additional generation was due to a simple transcription error because the numbers have been adjusted to provide the same numerical sums in the genealogies that contain this name as are provided in the genealogies that omit it. Whether the name Cainan was part of the original text of Luke is a much more difficult question to answer than AiG has suggested. Regardless of what one concludes regarding Luke’s genealogy, that decision should be made based solely on evaluating the evidences related to this passage. Attempting to use this passage to prove that the meaning of a Hebrew word should be limited is circular reasoning, and something to be avoided.

 

Argument 6

There is no reason to defend Harold Camping’s argument, so I will ignore it and focus on the errors in AiG’s response. AiG tells us that These verbs use the hiphil form of the verb” and that the “Hiphil usually expresses the causative action of qal.” While both statements are true, AiG then leaps to the unwarranted conclusion that “God chose this form to make it absolutely clear that we understand that there are no missing generations in chapters 5 and 11 of Genesis. Any other Hebrew verb form would not have been nearly as emphatic as the hiphil form.” This is stated without providing references to any Hebrew scholarship that would support this conclusion, and there is no Hebrew reference lexicon that would suggest the hiphil form would limit the semantic range of meaning for this root in this way. While it is true that the hiphil form USUALLY expresses causative action, they have failed to recognize that the meaning of a verb is not always derived from its form; common usage must always take precedence in determining meaning. For example, if I say “I speak Hebrew[xiii]”, the piel (intensive) form of the verb is used; however, the meaning of this verb is just simple active even though the piel construction is used. There are many Hebrew verbs that “break the rules” when one considers the meaning that “should” be derived from its form. When we look at the interchangeability of the qal (light, active) and hiphil (causative, active) for the root ‘YaLaD’ (to  begat) as it is used in the biblical text, we should recognize that caution must be exercised before deriving the meaning for this verb based on its form.

More importantly, AiG’s understanding of causative action is itself flawed. In biblical Hebrew, the causative form is frequently used to indicate the person who was the cause of an action even when that person was not the agent who did the action. When Scripture speaks of David bringing (hiphil) the shields of gold to Jerusalem (1 Chr. 18:7), it does not intend to convey the idea that David personally carried them to Jerusalem, but rather that he had his men bring them to Jerusalem. When it speaks of Solomon bringing (hiphil) the dedicated items into the Temple (2 Chr. 5:1), again the intent is not to convey the idea that Solomon literally carried these items himself, but rather that they were brought to the temple by others following his order. Similarly, when Scripture tells us that God brought disaster on Israel, most of the time that action was carried out by the men of other nations i.e. God was the cause of the action, but not the agent of that action. Additionally, it is clear that this verb can be used in the Hiphil form to indicate genealogical gaps. One of the best examples can be found in Duet. 4:25 which uses this exact form to say “for you will beget sons and sons of sons;” a statement that couldn’t more strongly indicate multiple generations.

 

Conclusion

Strong vigorous debate is an invaluable tool for learning only when we come to that debate willing to acknowledge the weakness of our own position and willing to hear the positions of those with whom we disagree. Some of the most valuable debates I have engaged in personally are the ones I have lost; they were valuable because loosing meant that I learned something that I had not known before. When we enter into a debate with the idea that winning is more important that learning, too often the result is that integrity is compromised in order to achieve that goal, and no one profits from that debate. It is time we stop coming to debates over Creation with the goal of winning, and start engaging in debates with the goal of truly learning from one another.

 


 

[i] Strong’s identifies 8674 Hebrew words, other sources vary slightly.

[ii] The number of words in the English language is: 1,025,109.8.   This is the estimate by the Global Language Monitor on January 1, 2014. The English Language passed the Million Word threshold on June 10, 2009 at 10:22 a.m. (GMT).  The Millionth Word was the controversial ‘Web 2.0′. Currently there is a new word created every 98 minutes or about 14.7 words per day. Though GLM’s analysis was the subject of much controversy at the time, the recent Google/Harvard Study of the Current Number of Words in the English Language is 1,022,000.   The number of words in the English language according to GLM now stands at:  1,025,109.8.  The difference between the two analyses is .0121%, which is widely considered statistically insignificant. Google’s number, which is based on the counting of the words in the 15,000,000 English language books it has scanned into the ‘Google Corpus,’ mirrors GLM’s Analysis.  GLM’s number is based upon its algorithmic methodologies, explication of which is available from its site.

[iii] Among Hebrew scholars there is a debate about whether the first instance should be translated as “it was said” or whether “it should be said” better communicates the intent of Hosea. The use of the perfect is primarily based on the translation of this text found in the LXX.

[iv] וַתֵּ֤לֶד אֶת־אֵ֙לֶּה֙ לְיַעֲקֹ֔ב שֵׁ֥שׁ עֶשְׂרֵ֖ה נָֽפֶשׁ (Gen. 46:18)

[v] Shem-Tob ben-Isaac ben-Shaprut  (14th Century)

אסא הוליד את יהושפט יהושפט הוליד את יורם יורם הוליד את עוזיה (Matt. 1:8)

יאשיה הוליד את יכניה ואחיו בגלות בבל (Matt. 1:11)

[vi] Peshitta (5th Century)

‎  אסא אולד ליהושׁפט יהושׁפט אולד ליורם יורם אולד לעוזיא (Matt. 1:8)

‎  יושׁיא אולד ליוכניא ולאחוהי בגלותא דבבל (Matt. 1:11)

[vii] Van Dyke

‎  وَآسَا وَلَدَ يَهُوشَافَاطَ. وَيَهُوشَافَاطُ وَلَدَ يُورَامَ. وَيُورَامُ وَلَدَ عُزِّيَّا.  (Matt. 1:8)

‎  وَيُوشِيَّا وَلَدَ يَكُنْيَا وَإِخْوَتَهُ عِنْدَ سَبْيِ بَابِلَ (Matt. 1:11)

[viii] In 1 Chr. 7:23 (the very first verse from this passage) we read ‘‎וַתַּ֖הַר וַתֵּ֣לֶד בֵּ֑ן’ (and she conceived and begat a son). In Hebrew, letters like ה,ו,י,נ are weak letters, and it frequently dropped when verbs containing them are conjugated. In the text from 1 Chr. 7:23 that I provided, both verbs contain weak letters and both verbs have dropped a letter in their conjugated form in this text. The root for ‘to conceive’ is הרה and the final ה is dropped when conjugated as ותהר, the root for ‘to begat’ is ילד and the י is dropped when the verb is conjugated as ותלד. The prefixed ת simply indicates that this is the 3rd person feminine singular imperfect.

[ix] Because the DSS are very fragmentary, every passage found in the LXX cannot be compared to an original text from the DSS collection; this is one example where we our comparison is still limited only to Hebrew manuscripts that centuries newer than the Greek texts of the LXX to which they are being compared.

[x] The NET bible notes that “the witnesses with this reading (or a variation of it( are substantial: א B L ¦1 33 )Καϊνάμ(, A Θ Ψ 0102 ¦13 Û (Καϊνάν, Kainan)”

[xi] Jubilees. 8:1-5

[xii] Journal for the Study of the Pseudepigrapha 2009 18: 207, The Curse of Cainan (Jub. 8.1-5): Genealogies in Genesis 5 and Genesis 11, and a Mathematical Pattern., Helen R. Jacobus

[xiii] “אני מדבר עברית”

 

 

LET’S STOP PRETENDING!

What happened to Alton Sterling is NOT the same as what happened to Philando Castile!

Not_The_SameThere has been a rush to present both tragedies as identical by far too many on both sides of the political spectrum. Our president, and much of the media, has presented both incidents as identical examples of unjustified police shootings and a pattern of police abuse against our black citizens, neighbors, and friends (even before  the evidence is in). Their irresponsible, unjustified, and hate-filled response to these tragedies has only served only to widen an already growing division in our country and has escalated violence against the men and women who put their life on the line to serve and protect our citizens every day. Now some conservative sources have begun responding with the same irresponsible, unjustified, and hate-filled tactics, vilifying both men who were shot (again before the evidence is in), and placing the blame for both of these deaths on the shoulders of the men who were shot and killed. Doing this serves no one and only hurts our neighbors who, regardless of their political leanings, need our love now more than ever. ENOUGH ALREADY, JUST STOP!!!

Portraying these two incidents, that are so very different, as if they were the same is unjust and leads only to distrust, hurt, and anger that further divides us all. While it is still early in both investigations, and it is possible that new information could come to light in either of these investigations that would paint a very different picture than what is known today, it doesn’t seem likely. Without new evidence, justice requires that we look at each of these incidents very differently. If we, as a nation, continue to huddle into our own political corners, looking for “facts” to fit “our” narrative, while ignoring the facts that don’t, we will only exasperate the problems that continue to further divide our country.

Why are they different?

Philando Castile had no criminal record and apparently was legally carrying a firearm and informed the officer of this fact. His girlfriend, after the shooting, was completely compliant with the officers and there is currently no reason to believe that Mr. Castile was not also fully compliant with the officer’s orders before the shooting took place. While there are some rumors that suggest that he may have been pulled over based on a case of mistaken identity, that alone does not justify the shooting. Having been in a similar situation where I was held at gunpoint by officers who believed I was a criminal fleeing from a crime scene, I am very thankful that most officers do not shoot their suspects with such ease. In this situation, not only was someone shot without cause but after the shooting took place, neither officer handled the situation appropriately. Neither officer made any attempt to administer medical aid to the person whom they had just shot, but instead they arrested, handcuffed, and transported the girlfriend to the police station, treating her as a criminal. She was not permitted to be with her boyfriend who was shot and dying, nor was she permitted to be with her daughter who had just witnessed this tragedy. While I would not conclude, based on the evidence we have today, that this shooting was motivated by race, I do believe that it is an example of extremely gross negligence by both officers, and if what we know now proves to be true, both officers should be fired, and the one who pulled the trigger should be charged with felony manslaughter.

Alton Sterling was a felon with an illegal firearm and was unwilling to comply with the officer’s orders. Because of his unwillingness to comply, he was wrestled to the ground by the officers and was still fighting them when one officer believed that he was attempting to use his gun against them. While, given the evidence we have at the moment, it is unclear whether the officer was mistaken, there is little doubt that this is what he believed at the moment he fired his weapon. In the midst of a struggle, like the one that was taking place, it is entirely understandable that something could have been miss-perceived but such a miss-perception (if it was a miss-perception) would not change the circumstance of this case. People need to put themselves in the shoes of the officers involved and recognize that if the officer was right and had hesitated for even a tiny fraction of a second, one or more of the officers could have been killed. Officers, who put their lives on the line daily to protect and serve their community, deserve to come home to their families at night, and the constraints that many desire to place on them would mean than many more of them would not make it home. While it is horrible tragedy when anyone is killed, the blame for this killing must lie on the shoulders of the one who initiated the situation and, in this case, that person was Mr. Sterling. Regardless of the color of a person’s skin, anyone who chooses to become physically violent with a police officer should understand that he is putting his own life at risk when he chooses to do this.

Please, please, let us step out of our political corners and come together to look for real solutions to the real problems that confront our nation! If we are going to survive as a nation, we must be willing to truly listen to those on all sides and set aside our own misconceptions. Ultimately this begins when we are willing to look at everyone through they eyes of the one who created us all and who loves each of us so dearly. Only then will we begin to understand the value of each life that has been lost and weep, as God does, for each and every one of them.

 


 

Note: For those who will automatically assume that I wasn’t shot only because I am white, I can assure you that the officer in my case could not have known the color of my skin until after the perceived threat was over.  He saw only a man in a car with his high beams aimed at him. Additionally, while I was completely unaware, the officer had more reason to believe that I was acting aggressively towards him than it appears that the officer who shot Mr. Castile did.

Challenge: How many can you identify?

One of the most beautiful poetic passages of the Hebrew bible is found in Ecclesiastes 12, and the richness of this passage is too often missed because people have failed to understand the rich poetic imagery that Solomon has employed. Throughout this passage, word pictures are employed to describe the process of aging and all that comes with it. How many of these word pictures can you identify and correctly interpret?

The most challenging word pictures found in this passage are in verse 5; their challenge lies in the fact that we no longer have a clear understanding of the intended imagery of the almond blossom, the locust [tree], or the caperberry. Many translations have opted to interpret some or all of these word pictures for you, often without indicating their departure from the underlying Hebrew text. While the NLT attempts to keep the original imagery, it adds the common interpretations of that imagery into the text i.e. before your hair turns white like an almond tree in bloom, and you drag along without energy like a dying grasshopper, and the caperberry no longer inspires sexual desire.However, I believe Robert Alter, in his book “The Wisdom books: Job, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes,” offers a better solution when he notes that “It is less strained to read these lines simply as images of the cycle of growth and decay in nature as man is about to depart from that cycle.” Alter also offers a possible solution to one of the most challenging word pictures in this text. He notes that “The most puzzling reference is to the laden locust. Some see this as indicating a plant, not an insect (in fact a meaning carried by the English word as well); others detect a reference to the female locust heavy with eggs, after laying which she dies. Perhaps the least strained construction is a locust tree heavy with ripe fruit.

How many of the word pictures employed by Solomon can you identify?


 

caper berry

Remember your Creator while you are still young,

before the days of misery come

and turn into years in which you say “there is no pleasure in them.”

 

Remember him –

 Before the light of the sun, and the moon, and the stars grow dark,

           And the clouds return after the rain.

 When the guardians of the house tremble

and the strong men stoop,

 When the grinders are idle because they are few

and those who peer through the windows fade away.

 When the doors to the street are shut,

           And the sound of the mill grows faint.

 When one rises to the sounds of the bird,

           But the daughters of song have been subdued.

 

Even heights bring fear,

           And the streets terrify them.

  — the almond tree blooms,

the locust tree is heavy laden,

and the caper berry breaks open —

Because a man goes to his eternal home,

           And mourners go around in the streets.

 

Remember him –

 Before the silver cord breaks

and the golden bowl crashes to the ground,

 Before the well’s pitcher is smashed

and it’s crank wheel broken.

 Before dust returns to the earth from where it came,

           And the spirit returns to God who gave it.

 

Futility, futility, said the preacher, all is futility.

(Ecclesiastes 12:1-8)